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June 17th, 2000 · No Comments

Our ride to London was not intended to be easy, nor was it. We picked up an eight page DRG (daily route guide) at 6:30 a.m. and headed off to find breakfast at the Ugly Duckling Pub. Our first English breakfast was a delight, at least to me. My fellow cyclists were pouring salt and pepper over everything, complaining how bland it at was. Since I handle a fork like my Mother did, in my left hand so I can add 2 or three various items on it, I was not bothered by bland, I used a slice of sausage or mushroom with my egg. That way it was tasty. Well, at least I enjoyed the meal.

Some cyclists arrived late, only to find the food mostly gone. When they complained, the owner of the Ugly Ducking said the others arrived early and ate all he was paid to put out. Guess the customer forgot to tell the caterer we, who cycle miles on end, need and eat a lot of food! It was curious though, when Tim arrived the owner found a nice plate of breakfast for him. Oh well! We are now in the land of Monarchy, there are Royalty and there are peasants! Life is not equal in England, nor Odyssey.

Lavendar Field

The English countryside is very lovely. Homeowners have the delightful habit of naming their cottages. I enjoyed looking for the cute names they came up with, Thatch House, Green grove, Hidden Happiness, were a few. Larry and I are considering names for our home in Colorado, “End of the Trail” comes to mind.

The back roads are very narrow, actually bike paths in Denver are as wide! There is not enough room to pass, nor can two approaching cars pass at any speed. One always has to pull over and let the other pass, slowly. Cyclists on the road were treated with patience. We didn’t encounter impatience and speed until we got on the busier roads. Yet all considered, the view on the back roads was worth the ride. We loved seeing the endless fields of purple or yellow flowers. The fragrance was so powerful, I believe the fields were growing perfume. That is were it comes from, right?

Naturally the closer we got to the London, the closer the villages got. Before long, we were just riding in one big conglomeration of city after city. We passed through Canterbury, as I carefully cycled in traffic, I glanced left to see the old walled city and the castle. So much for “seeing the world” we still had a long way to travel and it was very late in the afternoon.

The DRG consisted of 139 turns this day. That means there are at least 139 instances to screw up! We took advantage several times to not turn, resulting in a few moments of unnecessary riding and being lost. The ride would have been a great 2 day ride. Instead we spent 11 1/2 hours on the bike navigating an 8 page DRG, while trying not to get killed by traffic that is going the “wrong way”.

We continued our trek onward toward London. Mid-afternoon, we were both getting very hungry. Not finding any normal take away places or grocery stores, we opted for a fish and chips place without seating. Instead of standing on the sidewalk eating, I packed the food on the bike and rode off looking for a patch of grass in a park. It wasn’t long before we came upon a nice big park with guys playing soccer or as they call it here, football. We sat down to have a picnic. When I opened the fish and chips, wrapped in paper, all I could see was the grease spots on the paper and the solid mass of “chips” that were melded together. Yuck! We couldn’t eat the chips and picked away at the fish. Ordinarily I would love fish and chips but this was not my favorite meal. It was nice to be able to sit for a few minutes on the ground.

It was so late, and we still had a long way to go. We continued on, crossing the river Thames on a ferry. We were lucky to get there before it closed. Several riders arrived after 8 p.m. and had no way to get across the river except through a very long tunnel that was not meant for bikes. It was risk the tunnel or take a taxi. Some did each.

Our day finally ended at Queen Mary and Westfield College University of London, an inner-city college on the very far outskirts north of London. We were delighted to get here and checked into our single private rooms immediately. Larry had his, I have mine! We had ridden 90 miles, even though the DRG had indicated our day was to be only 76.9 miles. Mistakes going in that direction are not good.

Our dinner was another scene. Since I had been riding the last hour close to “bonking”, that’s when your body runs out of fuel and you begin to shake and get over-hungry, we went immediately to dinner without cleaning up. The line was short and the attitude of the service people (wardens) in the cafeteria was even shorter. They were spooning up the portions. I asked for extra cauliflower, which I love and was given a tiny little branch and was told they couldn’t give anymore. Great. After going through the line I had what would be considered a “normal” portion of food for an ordinary person. It was not a plate of food for someone who had just ridden 90 miles on a bicycle. I helped myself to an extra roll, thinking that would help fill the void in my stomach. Immediately, some cafeteria warden, came running over to me to tell me to put the roll back. We were only allowed one roll!

Stunned, my only response was, “this is not enough food! We have ridden all day, do you understand?” She told me that everyone was being very greedy and they were only allowing us to have “what had been paid for!” I was upset, but realized I shouldn’t be upset with the vendor. Once again, it was TK&A’s fault for not being there to oversee the situation and correct it. I laughed it off and thought, if my mind had been sharp, I would have reached into my pocket and paid for the roll. Instead I got even, I helped myself to a second dessert when the wicked witch of the cash register was chatting with the kitchen staff. Success!

Tags: British Isles · England · world travel